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My Final Abroad Log: Study Abroad Advice


My Final Abroad Log: Study Abroad Advice

In case you missed about 90% of the content on this page, I studied abroad in college. I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but I had no idea how much planning and effort it would take to ensure I made the most of my four months abroad. If you are considering going abroad and feel overwhelmed with options and planning, here are five tips I have to make the most of your study abroad experience. 

1. Consider a homestay

While it may sound more exciting to stay in a dorm or an apartment with other study abroad students, I highly recommend considering staying with a local family during your time abroad. I stayed with a Milanese family during my semester abroad and it truly made me feel like part of the community. It is easy to get homesick during your semester abroad, but living in a homestay gives you the chance to connect with a family and learn more about the culture. I loved coming back from class to an actual home with an amazing host mom to talk to (not to mention the amazing food she cooked!) I also had my own room and bathroom, which wouldn’t have been the case if I had picked a student apartment. Overall, having an Italian family to learn from and connect with during my time in Milan made all the difference in my study abroad experience, and I could not recommend living in a homestay enough!

2. Find opportunities to connect with the community

Since most abroad semesters have a lighter course load than what you are used to, you might find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands. I only took four classes during my study abroad and I had plenty of extra time during the week that I was not accustomed to! I wanted to use some of that time to connect with the community (and also make a bit of money), so I started working twice a week as an English tutor for two young girls. I took the train to their house after class and helped them with their English (they also helped me with my Italian) and got to spend time with their family. I loved getting to spend time with them, and the extra money for my weekend trips did not hurt! Most abroad programs will have opportunities for you to give back to the community and work with local families, and I urge you to make use of your free time and connect with your abroad home. 

3. Consider going somewhere where you don’t know the language… 

For someone who hasn’t done much international travel, picking an English speaking country to study abroad is the perfect happy medium. But if you are looking to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend considering studying abroad in countries that do not speak your language. I was worried about not being able to speak Italian when I got to Milan, but I quickly learned that there was nothing to be afraid of. First off, most people I met did speak some English, which made me feel safe in case I needed help and did not know how to communicate in Italian. I also found that people really do appreciate you trying to speak to them in their native language, and will be happy to help you even if you totally butcher whatever you’re saying. There were plenty of times where I tried to purchase or order something I didn’t know how to say, but I tried my best and was always given help and praise by the person I was trying to speak with. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the language when you get there, all that matters is that you challenge yourself to learn and respect the culture you will be living in!

4. Look into the elective courses offered at each program

You might already have a dream destination for your study abroad program, but depending on your course of studies, it might not be the best fit for you. If you’re someone like me who had to make sure to get specific credits completed abroad, looking into the courses taught at each program is crucial. When deciding if I should study abroad in Milan or Copenhagen, one of the things that helped me choose was the courses that each offered. The program in Milan offered a finance class that I needed to graduate on time, but it also offered more fashion electives that I didn’t have the chance to take at the undergraduate business school I attended. Finding the right balance of courses you need to take as well as courses that sound unique and interesting should help narrow down your search for the perfect study abroad city.

5. Consider going without your friends

This last one is probably the toughest to hear, but the most important advice I can give to anyone thinking about studying abroad. It can be hard to leave your friends after being together for the last two and a half years, but going abroad without your core friend group can be one of the best experiences of your college career. For me, it was really challenging not to go to Barcelona or Ireland where my best friends were studying. I knew no one that was going to the Milan program from my school, and I was so scared at the thought of having to find new friends in a new city. While there were times I missed them and wished I was with my group, I’m so glad I pushed myself to meet new people and experience something on my own. It’s hard not to follow where other people are going abroad for more comfort, but I challenge you to put that aside and choose the study abroad city that’s right for you, even if you have to go alone.

I am so thankful that I got to study abroad during my time at college and I would not change anything about my experience in Milan. Studying abroad can feel very overwhelming and it’s easy to change your mind and stay home, but I urge you to push yourself and chase new experiences! Moving to Italy by myself and learning a new language and culture gave me so much self confidence and I can’t wait to never stop talking about my semester abroad!

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